By Hans Fallada Review by Ali Philosophy, Politics and Economics The memory is still vivid to me; on a train down from Manchester to London, my year-old self clasping Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada tightly in hand before beginning to tentatively flick through the pages. Essentially, the book surrounds the small acts of resistance perpetrated by Otto and Anna Quangel in opposition to Nazi tyranny in the aftermath of the death of their son characters based on actual members of the anti-Nazi resistance, Otto and Elise Hempel. They bravely leave postcards with anti-fascist messages on them all over Berlin as Inspector Escherich of the Gestapo frantically fails to reveal these unlikely towers of resistance. Now, you may be curious as to how this book led year old me to get involved in politics both through activism and academically. The answer is that Alone in Berlin is a stunning demonstration of how protest and political activity need not be about grand gestures, rallies and mass mobilisation but that political activity at its most powerful comes from an authentic place in this case, the pure emotional pain the Quangels faced after the death of their son and is conveyed through small acts of bravery and defiance.
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Fiction The path of least resistance James Buchan welcomes the supposed rediscovery of a novel about an ordinary German couple who took on the Nazis James Buchan Published on Sat 7 Mar Born in in Greifswald in north-east Germany, he was the son of a lawyer who was later appointed a judge. At the age of 18 he killed a schoolfriend in a duel, and spent much of his career in psychiatric hospitals and drying-out clinics or in prison for thieving and embezzlement to support his morphine habit.
In between, he worked on the land, wrote a couple of novels and held down jobs for a period on newspapers. Fallada married in , and for a while straightened out. His novel, Kleiner Mann - was nun? Under the Nazis, Fallada wrote and published a series of gritty novels of the type that German critics call neue Sachlichkeit, or new objectivity. In , he shot at his wife in a quarrel and was confined again to a psychiatric hospital. At the end of the war, Fallada was embraced by the new East German literary authorities.
In , he published with Aufbau-Verlag Jeder stirbt fuer sich allein "Each dies only for himself" which is here called Alone in Berlin. It was the first novel by a German author to take as its theme the small-scale domestic resistance to the National Socialists. The same year, weakened by years of alcoholism and drug-taking, Fallada died of a heart attack. Traces of this unruly life are scattered through Alone in Berlin: brawling, delirium tremens, clinics and drying-out establishments, country idylls, theft, blackmail, morphine, and a vivid world of sub-proletarian swindling that exploits and is exploited by the Nazis.
It is remarkable that Fallada, just months before his death, could compose a long novel that, after an overcrowded beginning, advances so confidently to its conclusion. Otto and Anna Quangel are a Berlin working couple, laborious, unsociable, thrifty to the point of stinginess, and originally not hostile to the National Socialists. That changes in when their beloved son, Ottochen, is killed while fighting in France. Otto, a foreman in a furniture factory that soon will be turned over to making coffins, is provoked into resistance.
He spends his Sundays writing anonymous postcards against the regime and dropping them in the stairwells of city buildings. Originally Nazi supporters, on the death of their son in France in they began to deposit postcards and some written leaflets in post-boxes and stairwells around their home district, Berlin-Wedding. To bring life to these facts, Fallada assembles a staff of vivid low-life characters, stoolies, thieves and whores, Nazi veterans in a haze of drink, as well as ordinary working-people trying to put food on the table.
Here is the resistance of the small man, perilous, disorganised, irresponsible, perverse, brave and almost wholly futile. As the Gestapo Inspector Escherich muses: "There were more urgent and important cases. A madman Of the postcards and eight letters deposited by the Quangels over two years, all but 18 are handed straight in to the Gestapo where they destroy one life and two careers and sow chaos in an arbitrary and unamanageable organisation.
It seems Fallada kept his optimism intact to the end of his hard and rackety life. The witness who stands up in court to sing a Lutheran hymn seemed to me as honest as the old peasant couple who beg for clemency in a letter that begins: "Dearly beloved Fuehrer, a wretched mother is begging you on her knees for the life of her daughter, who committed a grave sin against you, but you are so great, you will surely show her mercy.
In truth, the book did very well in the Aufbau-Verlag edition, was filmed for television in both wings of divided Germany and then again for the cinema in the west in with Hildegard Knef and Carl Raddatz. I suppose by "rediscovered", Penguin means "translated into English".
It is harder to translate mediocre German than good German.
Seul dans Berlin
Background[ edit ] Otto and Elise Hampel , a working class couple in Berlin, were not interested in politics, but after Elise Hampel learned that her son  had fallen in France, she and her husband began committing acts of civil disobedience. They began writing leaflets on postcards , urging people to resist and overthrow the Nazis. They wrote hundreds of them, leaving them in apartment stairwells and dropping them into mailboxes. Though they knew the law made this a capital crime , they continued this work for well over a year until they were betrayed and arrested. He also had an ear for the simple speech of the common worker. The book conveys the omnipresent fear and suspicion engulfing Germany at the time caused by the constant threat of arrest, imprisonment,   torture and death. Even those not at risk of any of those punishments could be ostracized and unable to find work.
The path of least resistance
Fiction The path of least resistance James Buchan welcomes the supposed rediscovery of a novel about an ordinary German couple who took on the Nazis James Buchan Published on Sat 7 Mar Born in in Greifswald in north-east Germany, he was the son of a lawyer who was later appointed a judge. At the age of 18 he killed a schoolfriend in a duel, and spent much of his career in psychiatric hospitals and drying-out clinics or in prison for thieving and embezzlement to support his morphine habit. In between, he worked on the land, wrote a couple of novels and held down jobs for a period on newspapers.